It was December of 2006 when one of the most infamous upsets occured in college football. On this night one of the biggest rivalries was taking place in the Rose Bowl as the unranked UCLA Bruins faced off against the No. 2 ranked USC Trojans. It was widely assumed that the Trojans would march onto victory without any difficulties. However, the Bruins had other intentions.
When the clock expired the Bruins were the victorious team that night as the Trojans could only wonder what had just happened. For some of the players who played for either of the prestigious programs this game has been forever carved into their memory. Just ask Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers, who was part of that Trojans squad.
Even though Rivers had many accomplishments at USC such as: winning a national title, earning first team All-American honors in his final season with the Trojans, and only losing five games total in his collegiate career, that one night, that single game alone forever stands out in his memory.
"They took us away from the national championship game. It's everything. You throw the records out the door and you just play, no matter the situation."
Ever since that game, Rivers has been drafted by the Bengals and earned millions of dollars while earning respect from around the league. Rivers endured a bone crushing hit from Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward that ended his rookie season after seven games.
But that moment, that rivalry between the two schools still lives on with him.
"We're two schools that are located less than 20 miles apart," Rivers says. "It's important to own the city of L.A. -- and the Rose Bowl."
During the Rose Bowl match-up between the Bruins and Trojans, UCLA held USC scoreless in the second half. Josh David Booty, who had been having a tremendous season, didn't throw a single touchdown pass. Running back C.J. Gable scored the lone touchdown for the powerhouse Trojans.
For the Bruins, quarterback Patrick Cowan only passed for 114 yards, but he did score the lone touchdown for the Bruins on a one-yard dash in the first quarter. Ultimately it came down to the kicking game which helped lead the Bruins to victory. Justin Medlock made two field goals for the Bruins in the second half to seal the deal.
Now rivalries occur in every sport. In baseball you have the Yankees vs. Red Sox. In hockey you have Flyers vs. Bruins. And in football you have the Steelers vs. Bengals. In my opinion those are some of the biggest rivalries in sports.
As Bengals fans we can attest to having one defining game or moment being hammered into our memories forever. Depending on when you started following the Bengals the moments could either be when Cincinnati was in the Super Bowl squaring off against San Francisco. We ultimately lost both match-ups and for some that moment has never died. For younger fans, such as myself, the memory of being known as the "Bungals" because of the 14 consecutive losing seasons that we endured, and the 2005 playoffs against the Steelers.
During that season the Bengals were cruising along. Nothing could stop them, or so it would seem. In the first quarter Steelers defensive lineman Kimo Von Oelhoffen rolled over Carson Palmer's knee thus ending his game and the Bengals chances. No offense to Jon Kitna, but at the time he was no Carson Palmer.
That one defining moment still resonates with me unfortunately. What if Palmer wasn't injured in that game? What would the Bengals have done in the remainder of the postseason? If the Bengals had advanced in the playoffs would they have actually had a string of playoff appearances instead of taking a hiatus from playing football? No one will actually know. We can keep playing the "what if" game, but what good does it serve? That game is just another unique aspect of the Bengals rivalry with the Steelers.
That game alone heightened the rivalry and animosity between the two teams.
Another memory that is undoubtedly forever in our minds are the 2009 playoffs where Shayne Graham, who had been one of the most accurate kickers in the league for years, suddenly couldn't make a field goal if his life depended on it. It's not as if the field goals were from a ridiculously long distance or anything. For Graham those field goals were chip shots that he should've made. I can bet that he still has memories of that game.
Rivalries are always going to be part of sports. It brings life and a whole new meaning to the game. And it's one reason you have to love being a sports fanatic.